Toronto activists oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership and corporate globalization

ByJohn Bonnar,| February 1, 2014

He called it the most nontransparent trade negotiation in Canadian history.

“Here in Canada, how much do we know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, standing outside the Mexican Consulate in downtown Toronto on Friday afternoon. 

“Almost nothing because this government refuses to show people what’s in this deal. Refuses to even show the deal to politicians in Ottawa. Refuses to even show them an impact assessment.”

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundations (EFF), “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement..”

The twelve nations currently negotiating the TPP are the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.

“Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate,” said EFF on its website.”

“The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.”

For not only the TPP undertaking. Other trade deals the Canadian government is involved have been negotiated behind closed doors too.

On Friday, Toronto activists marched between the Mexican and U.S. consulates to protest the proposed TPP trade agreement and NAFTA, one of 45 similar actions across North America and the world as part of an Intercontinental Day of Action against corporate globalization. 

“Our goal is to help build this movement in Canada against all of these corporate rights deals that the Harper government is signing,” said Trew.

The TPP. The Canada-Europe free trade deal. The Canada-Honduras trade deal. The India trade deal. The Japan trade deal.

“And of course we have seen investment treaties that this government is signing, including with China and African countries, that give our mining companies the ability to sue other governments when the people get in the way of their project.”

That’s why Friday’s action coincided with a conference in Mexico City on the catastrophic impacts of NAFTA on Mexico.

“Poverty in Mexico has increased,” said Andrea Griffith.

“Between 2006 and 2010, 12 million Mexicans fell below the poverty line. More than 50,000 people died of malnutrition between 2006 and 2011. Real unemployment has grown from 17.38 per cent in 1995 to 19.75 in  2013. Sixty three per cent of the population does not have social security, employment security or a pension for retirement.”

Protesters marched in silence from the Mexican Consulate as a gesture of solidarity with the Zapatistas.

“The Zapatistas used the same day as the signing of NAFTA to launch their war against the Mexican state,” said Trew. 

A revolutionary leftist group based in Chiapas, the Zapatistas initially declared “war” against military, paramilitary and corporate invasion into their territory. Recently, they’ve used a strategy of civil resistance.

“In 2012, they came together to march through the city in complete silence.”

The Toronto march stopped briefly outside First Canadian Place, the home of Bennet Jones, a law firm specializing in energy, natural resources and project development.

“Within all these trade deals there is an investor rights chapter that lets companies sue countries when they feel their profits have been harmed,” said Trew.

“Giving corporations more rights than anyone else in this country and any other country.”

In Canada, Lone Pine Resources “first disclosed last week that it intends to sue the Canadian government for at least $250-million under NAFTA’s Chapter 11, which allows investors from the U.S. and Mexico to take government policies or actions that hurt their interests before a panel of arbitrators,” said the Globe and Mail in a story published on November 22, 2012.

“In its notice of intent, Lone Pine charges that the government’s move, “without a penny of compensation,” violates NAFTA’s provision that companies facing expropriation should be reimbursed. Lone Pine also charges that Quebec’s move unfairly pre-empts the conclusion of the province’s ongoing study on the safety of fracking.

“The Quebec government’s move to cancel a natural-gas exploration permit for deposits beneath the St. Lawrence River last year was “arbitrary, capricious and illegal,” according to the U.S. energy company challenging the move under the North American free-trade agreement.”

Lone Pine Resources, incorporated in Delaware, has its headquarters in Calgary.

Canadian mining companies, said Trew, are using similar tactics in other countries around the world.

“All because the people of those countries said ‘no’ to a big Canadian gold mine or another big Canadian project,” said Trew.

“We think that this process has got to end.”

The group then headed to the Toronto offices of Goldcorp, a gold producer headquartered in Vancouver, B.C.

“Goldcorp uses these types of trade deals to push forward their projects regardless of the impacts on people around the world,” said Rachel Small, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

“This week, a community in Guatemala issued a call for international solidarity because Goldcorp has been running a giant open pit mine on their territory that they’re trying to expand now.”

Friday’s rally and march was organized by Common Frontiers, The Council of Canadians, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly and the Trade Justice Network.

“That businesses would be able to use the investor protection elements of NAFTA to force governments to privatize public services is a very real concern,” said Paul Bocking, a secondary school teacher, labour activist, amateur filmmaker and PhD student at York, standing across the street from the US Consulate.

Many major Canadian cities have requested exemption from the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA).

“There is a lot of coordination amongst levels of government and the private sector seeking to find investment opportunities in the public sector in schools,” said Bocking.

“This is a thing that we’re working right now to combat and organize against.”

US president Barrack Obama is also keen to sign more free trade agreements, introducing a trade bill that would fast track the TPP and European Union pacts through Congress.

“This month is the twentieth anniversary of NAFTA, a key building block that brought the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs across North America,” said Herman Rosenfeld, the Greater Toronto Workers Assembly and Socialist Project.

“Searching for the lowest labour costs regardless of the effects on the development process of any country contributing to the precarious labour markets that we’re all living with.”

Once again, putting profits ahead of people.

“People around the world continue in greater numbers to oppose this corporate, free trade model,” said Trew. 

“The model that is sucking money up to the top with no sign of it ever coming down.”